“I had everybody. I was taking over the city and the building, and everyone was coming to me”.
What separates a good music Engineer from a bad one is the right balance of speed, details, and understanding the vibe in the studio. Anu Budz, owner of MakeWay Studios started by recording artistes in his mom’s basement, to developing an acclaimed establishment that has become one of the most in demand studios in Montreal. By creating a brand that produces top notch engineers, producers, and directors in-house, he’s mastered his craft as he’s becoming the staple for artistes to come in and get the stamp of approval on their music. Start following Anu Budz, as he has the will and is making a way for artistes.
514: Where are you from?
AB: Montreal, Cote Saint-Luc NDG area
514: What High School did you attend?
AB: I went to Marymount
514: Where are your parents from?
AB: My mom is from Morocco, my dad is Polish but he was born here.
514: Did your parents support you doing music early in your career?
AB: When I started I was doing it in my mom’s basement, microphone in the middle of the room, with my bed just a couple of feet away, and I would record people for free. Eventually, I would have too many homies recording, and I was realizing that this is taking up a lot of my time. So I started charging to benefit both ends. So I bought a better microphone, and started charging people $10 to $15 bucks/hr in my mom’s basement. And people loved my vibe.
514: What programs we’re you using back then to record?
AB: I was recording on Fruity Loops or Cool Edit. I had a SM58 stage microphone.
514: We’re you working at a job at the same time you were recording in your mom’s basement?
AB: I was working at Moore’s the tuxedo spot. I would have to shave and be clean cut, wear a suit to work. So while I was doing that from 9am to 5pm, then I would do a 6pm to 9:30pm at RAC (Recording Arts Canada).
514: So you went to school to become a music engineer?
AB: Yeah! That’s where I got my degree from. I figured if I want to be treated like a professional then I should have the background knowledge to know all these things that you could do with these programs. So it gave me a really great base.
514: How long was the program that you attended at RAC?
AB: It was a year, 12 courses. It goes from everything to acoustic, to signal processing. It was really a good experience.
514: How did you stay grounded and focused to complete those long days ahead of you?
AB: It was really hectic days, from 9am to 9:30pm, and then I would try to hustle in a couple of sessions at 10pm to get some experience.
514: Is experience something that the school lacks in giving their students?
AB: These schools don’t give the students experience to actually sit down with a client and do business with people. That’s why out of the 28 people I started with, I’m the only one who did anything with my degree. You know I see a lot of the kids from my school and some of them got jobs at festivals working wires, some people wanted to be DJ’s. But that’s not what you went to school for. You gotta have your priority straight and know what you want to do with this, and you gotta be doing it. You can’t just be waiting around because the school is not going to give you a job.
514: Why do you think you out of the 28 people actually made it?
AB: Because I was actually doing it. I even tried to bring the people from my school on board and they didn’t have the drive and motivation for it.
514: Do you think it’s because the money doesn’t come in right away, and it’s a constant grind?
AB: I never had the best test scores in my school whenever it came down to the writings. But whenever it came down to the practicals and actively doing something, I was the only one who actually understood what was going on. I just wish that the schools would give an extra boost as to how to start your own business.
514: At what point did you know that you were all in with being an Engineer and quit your job?
AB: When I was renting out my space and saw that I was booked every day. My first place was on Sherbrooke with DJ Horg. He already had a studio, so I started by trying it out for half a month. We would go back and forth, and it was booked out every second day.
514: How much money were you charging at that time for a recording session?
AB: $30/hr. I would do six 10 hour days with different people. There was a tattoo company and a porn editing company within the hallway when you would come into my studio.
514: That definitely gave it a vibe before entering?
AB: Yeah! It was hilarious. But what wasn’t cool was that they got annoyed. They’re like “Every time it’s your day to be here the place is packed up with rappers” I was just like “Well I’m sorry I’m more busier than you guys and I have more of a clientele”. Eventually it came to a point where they just wasn’t down. So I found a new spot near the Bell Centre, 1180 St. Antoine which is the Big John space a lot of people know about down here.
514: How much was the rent in that space?
AB: $400. So once I did that, I had the space to myself full time and I was running this. Now I gotta be here every day. I have to be on my social media and boosting my Instagram, my website was important and to have all my services listed.
514: What year is this that we are talking about?
AB: This is four years ago. Like right away as soon as I was out, I knew I had to get my branding on point. So out of this little spot, two of the main studios shut down in my building. One of them the Engineer working there is Hugo Roberge. A rapper came to me one day and said, that my Engineer is out of a studio and he needs somewhere to work. So I was like fine because I need someone else right now because I’m swamped with work and we’re overbooked, and if I have some extra time to spend on developing the Company and branding than that would be great. So he came and everything worked out with him, he was coming into a smaller studio because his was really nice where he was coming from but they just didn’t have the clientele. I had everybody. I was taking over the city and the building, and everyone was coming to me.
514: How did the word start spreading out so quickly about MakeWay Studios?
AB: I was branding and putting my name in everybody’s face. I had a big logo that said MakeWay on the wall and everybody was taking their picture with it. I was just consistent, and also being an artiste I was able to cross network and do big shows and everyone was like Wow MakeWay is doing big things and associating their name.
514: So at the beginning you didn’t invest a lot of money. When did you really start investing a lot of money?
AB: So that one studio closed and I got Hugo. Then when the second studio close it was a really nice big spot so I asked the landlord what’s going on with that and he told me it was $1400/mth and there was an office in there. If I split it with a Company that I know then it would be $700 each. I found 24hr Music Magazine they split the office, and I did the studio and together we had recording and publishing. I had a built studio in a beautiful big space, and all I had to do was plug in my equipment and go. I have a beautiful studio that looks like a million dollars, so when that Company went down, the old spot that I was in I used to rent out to producers, sub leasing and making a couple of bucks there.
514: It sounds like you were at the right place at the right time?
AB: That’s when things started to get a bit heavier. With both rooms it was $1900/mth, and I was getting most of it covered to the point, I only had to spend $600/mth because of the people I was renting it out to. And then I got a notice in the mail saying that the building was coming down, so I had to relocate. By then I had enough saved and I was popping, where I had 12hr days booked between me and Hugo going back and forth.
514: Do you own the building that MakeWay Studios is in right now?
AB: Yes, it used to be a boxing gym
514: Where did you get the money to invest into a building? You were working at Moore’s?
AB: I had kind of an interesting life. We moved six times growing up. At 17 my mom remarried to a guy who owns Rona. I didn’t have the credit for it but I had the cash flow and the business to run it to pay the mortgage. So with his credit I was able to get it.
514: What other services did you start to develop as you were branching out?
AB: Videos, photos, instrumental productions, graphic design. Hugo is also a graphic designer. We found a photographer who was up to code with what we were looking for. I ended up buying a photo studio so that was also an investment that I made to build the company. And then I needed something big to show off for myself, so I found an artiste that I really liked by the name of Kelly Krow. So when I saw Kelly he was applying to be on the cover of 24hr Magazine. Justin the owner was like “Yo check this guy out”. I was like Wow! this is nice, but horrible mix, but I feel his vibe. So his song I ended up taking it, a basement recording that he did, I mastered it.
514: Kelly Krow is a talented artiste. Are you guys still working together?
AB: No, not anymore, but we did a project it was for Questions. So I invested in making a video, I paid for everything, and did all the mastering. I said just do you as an artiste and we’re going to make your album and you will be the poster of my production. You are an amazing artiste, and not a rapper and I wanted to show that we’re not just a rap studio. I find that I specialize in vocals; I know how to make the vocals pop.
514: Who are some of the biggest names you’ve worked with?
AB: Mick Jenkins, Demrick, and Hugo done a vocal mix for 2Chainz on a feature that somebody came by with. Omar Linx is also a big one. But as far as performance- wise as an artiste, I’ve opened up for Pusha T and Fabolous, Machine Gun Kelly, Riff Raff, Cam’ron.
514: How do you get booked for all these shows?
AB: Well I network a lot and put on for myself a lot, and through the connections that I have you scratch my back and I scratch yours.
514: Essentially you wanted to be a rapper before you started to record people?
AB: No, I was recording people before and then I started rapping.
514: Why did you start rapping because that wasn’t your passion when you started?
AB: I didn’t have any passion, I was just hustling and I always had a business mind and felt like whatever I touched would have made money anyways. So whether it was recording, or making music videos, I feel like I would have succeeded in it. I ended up a product of the people around me. I really enjoyed it and I found a passion in rapping.
514: Do you keep it real with artistes if they ask you what you think about their track?
AB: Depends who it is. It’s difficult because I feel like you’re only wack if you don’t improve. I’ve had rappers where their first time in the booth wasn’t their best, but then the second time they come in and say “what I did the first time I heard it back a whole bunch of times and I know what I want to do now”. You get to see the improvement and that’s when I’ll start talking to them.
514: Who do you listen to nowadays?
AB: Cap 1, Ace Hood, Chinxx, 2chainz, like I know J Cole and Drake are dope but I don’t really listen to them. When I’m in my car I’m bumping the Trap-A-Holics mix tape and finding the newest rappers that are out there
514: Can you explain what mastering is?
AB: Different studios consider different things from mastering. But from my knowledge or at least coming back from Atlanta, how they deemed their term, it’s to have the music sounding proper on every system, and to be at its loudest maximum capacity without distorting.
514: Is mastering important?
AB: These days with things that go viral no, but it’s also how you’re trying to come out. Especially if you’re trying to come out with proper production and you’re someone who values production. But if you’re one of those dudes that can spit dope bars with a camera and a simple one shot that could just be what it takes for you to pop off. There are plenty of videos that get 10 million views and there’s no production value.
514: Does it bother you when there are a lot of people in the studio at the same time?
AB: No, I like it, especially if they have proper studio etiquette. It’s definitely cool when they actually start turning up it- that let’s me know that I’m doing the right thing. It’s like a girl that’s moaning in bed- that let’s me know that I’m doing the right thing.
514: Do you believe that MakeWay is one of the best studios in Montréal?
AB: I believe it’s one of the most in- demand studios in Montréal.
514: How do you make up the prices that you charge for a session?
AB: It’s all in comparison to the other studios. I am steadily increasing my prices as I upgrade my establishment. So when I was in the basement it was $15. When I built it here in studio B it’s $45/hr, and now the big one is $60/hr. Now I can actually give Artists the choice between both studios.
514: What’s the difference between both studios?
AB: I have a lot of equipment in the big studio. The space obviously is bigger. The room with the wood in here sounds amazing, and if you have a band you can record here. In studio B there’s only four inputs, in the bigger room we have up to 24 inputs.
514: What separates a good engineer from a bad one?
AB: Speed, understanding the vibe. You know when someone is in the booth there’s a certain energy level, and if they’re not hearing music constantly in their ears they’re losing that vibe. As an engineer you have to understand the vibe so that the artiste is giving out their best.
514: Are you tough on the artiste when they come in here like Dr. Dre?
AB: It depends, if I’ve had a couple of sessions with them already. Because sometimes you just have to let them learn it naturally. You just have to feel it out.
514: Do you believe that Montréal has a good music scene?
AB: Yeah for sure. I think we have an amazing music scene
514: Why hasn’t Montréal music scene popped yet?
AB: I feel like the radio has something to do with it. When I go to Atlanta or Florida the stuff that I hear on their FM radio is the same stuff that I hear on my mix tapes that I download. And people don’t actually know what’s popping they only hear the top 40. And then you hear people say well I guess Drake is popping because he’s on top but there’s other people like Kodak.
514: What mistakes have you learned from, that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
AB: Trying to put on for some of the people who weren’t as motivated as I was. Besides that, I don’t have any moments that I dropped. Throughout the years I’ve only advanced. Hugo was with me from day one and I told him I know that we’re in a small spot but trust me we’re going to advance
514: Where is your favourite chilling spot in Montréal?
AB: Right here MakeWay Studios
514: What’s the first app that you open up in the morning?
514: Are you a hard person to get in contact with?
AB: I answer everyone who talks to me. No matter how busy you think I am, I’m always willing to take an appointment with somebody or to answer somebody.
Facebook: Makeway Studios
Photo Credit: @gcastrophotographe
Writing By: Vlad Pierre
Edited By: Yvonne Sam